Colorado Rapids' goalkeeper battle is officially on after Matt Pickens sees action in friendly

DENVER — The Colorado Rapids goalkeeper battle is officially underway.

In Colorado’s 2-1 friendly defeat at the hands of Mexican side Santos Laguna in Albuquerque, N.M., on Friday night, veteran Matt Pickens returned to match action for the first time since breaking his left forearm on March 16. And he looked just fine.

“It feels good being back out there,” Pickens said postgame on Friday. “For me personally, it was a good run. I enjoyed it and I missed it and it feels good being back out there.”

Pickens wasn’t at fault on either Santos goal while playing the full 90 minutes, further setting the stage for a potential competition between him and current Rapids No. 1 Clint Irwin for the team’s starting goalkeeper spot.

After Pickens went down with the injury, the 24-year-old MLS rookie Irwin, who started the season as the team’s third-string goalkeeper, dazzled in Pickens’ absence, setting up a heated debate as to who should start now that Pickens’ arm is fully healed.

And now that Pickens is fully healthy again, his intention is to make Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja’s decision on who to start on Saturday a head-scratcher.

“I’m no stranger to competition. I enjoy it, this is why I play,” Pickens said. “I’m looking forward to getting more games in and just making it difficult for Oscar, in the end it’s his decision, and that’s that.”

As for the game itself, Pickens passed all his tests on Friday night. He said his arm felt fine afterwards, and within 30 seconds of the game, the broken forearm was immediately put to the test as he had to deal with a cross into the box. But just like everything else on Friday night, everything was smooth for the 31-year-old as he tries to win back the starting goalkeeper job that had been unquestionably his for four-plus seasons in Colorado.

“I just try to react. I think it was good to get that, because after it’s done, it’s just like ‘ok, you can settle down a little bit,’” Pickens said of dealing with the cross and testing his arm so early on Friday night. “It was a good run for me and I enjoyed it out there.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.